Former Port Authority executive David Wildstein testified Tuesday that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo played a part in attempting to cover up the September 2013 lane closures on the New Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge, a claim the governor’s office denies.
“The only role New York played in this episode was a positive one: It was our executive director who blew the whistle and ordered the bridge reopened,” a spokesman for Cuomo said in a statement.
Wildstein testified that based on conversations he had with former Port Authority Chairman David Samson, he understood Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie spoke, after the lane closures, in October 2013 about the drafting of a false report regarding the reason for the closures. In the proposed report, the “New Jersey side” of the Port Authority would accept responsibility for the lane closures, and they hoped this would put an end to the issue, Wildstein said in federal court.
Wildstein previously testified that this report would say the Port Authority conducted a traffic study in Fort Lee, New Jersey, and a communications breakdown between the agency and the town played a part in the massive amount of traffic experienced the week of September 9, 2013. Wildstein has said defendant Bill Baroni used the resulting report to falsely testify in a legislative hearing.
Wildstein testified that he was told Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye had conversations with Cuomo’s office about the proposed report, and that after Foye came to Cuomo with questions, Cuomo told Foye to sign the report and to “lay off” Christie.
“You felt that Foye would sign it because you believed Albany had told Foye to quote, lay off Christie?” defense attorney Michael Critchley asked in court. Wildstein said this was his understanding.
Foye was appointed by Cuomo, as Port Authority executive directors are appointed by the governor of New York. The PANYNJ is a joint commission run by the states of New York and New Jersey.
After finding out about the lane closures, Foye ordered the lanes reopened on September 13, 2013, after four days of gridlock.
Cuomo’s office vehemently denied the claims Tuesday evening.
“To be clear, no such conversation between the governors happened, in fact no report of any kind was ever done, and whatever the admitted Bridgegate architect thought or dreamt about New York’s involvement has no basis in fact,” a spokesman for Cuomo told CNN in a statement. “Anyone can say anything, especially a convicted felon spinning a tale, but it’s just false and delusional.”
“Mr. Wildstein’s testimony on this topic is not accurate,” Foye’s attorney, Eric Corngold, said in a statement.
“Mr. Foye never had any such conversation or was given any such direction by the governor or any of his staff.”
Wildstein testified last week that Christie was aware of traffic problems at the bridge as they were happening.